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The 2016 Vehicle Graphics Contest – An Introduction

An old-school Chevy Impala cruises to victory

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A decade ago, I encouraged my ST colleagues to give vehicle wraps their due by creating a competition devoted solely to them. We reached a consensus, and the Vehicle Graphics Contest was born. This challenge to service providers to vie for winners-circle glory in our pages marks the competition’s 10th edition.
Consider the ways in which the vehicle-wrap field has changed since the contest’s inception. Films have gotten thinner, inks more resilient (not to mention more color choices – including white) and installation tools better. And, perhaps most notably, new types of vehicle films – solid-color, auto-restyling films; matte-black, carbon-fiber, color-changing and other specialty films – have expanded the wrap market as an alternative to custom paint jobs and aftermarket special effects. With this in mind, we’ve introduced Specialty Wraps as a companion to our Unique Vehicles category. We hope to see this category grow going forward.
That’s enough backstory about the wrap market, I think. Let’s get to the goods of this year’s contest. I recruited Hebron, KY-based Crux Roadboardz to serve as the contest’s judges; they’d previously served as judges in 2012. Since the shop’s last foray into serving as contest jurists, Crux Roadboardz has moved into considerably larger quarters that provide greater installation and office space. And, owner Adam Coffaro, once a confirmed bachelor, is now married with a son due in November. As they say, the one constant is change.
In that vein, I take a bittersweet moment to note that this will be the last competition that I’ll oversee. I’ve taken a position to serve as a sign company’s marketing manager. I will miss the contest and the many competitors who’ve made this such an enjoyable part of my job (even if your procrastination in sending entries occasionally drove me batty).
The competition’s judges included Coffaro and the Crux team of Creative Director Jason Fiscus, production manager and designer Rob Elam, and installer Patrick Hansen. In some cases, their differences of opinion were quite pronounced. The initial round of judging involved grading the entries from 1 to 10 on three criteria; in several cases, one judge gave a wrap a grade of 27 or higher, while another dissed it with an aggregate score below 10. As the competition progressed to the second round, where judges debated the surviving entries and bestowed category awards and the ultimate prize, Best of Show, interplay such as “This is beautiful!” followed by a retort of “So what? I can’t read it!” was common. That’s why I’ve come to prefer having one shop’s staff judge a competition. They know one another well and have no problem dishing out honest opinions.
One area where the judging panel had no dissension was in determining Best of Show. The prevailing entry was submitted by Surf City Graphics (Huntington Beach, CA) and featured a full wrap on a 1962 Chevy Impala that pays tribute to Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, who gained fame as a tattoo artist who adorned countless GIs inside his Honolulu parlor. The shop completed the wrap for Mackey’s Custom Rods, which built the custom ride.
Crux’s crew commented that it would take two weeks to complete such a complex wrap over a classic car’s intricate body lines, and lauded such painstaking detail. As such, the Best of Show title switched coasts, with Surf City wresting the mantle from Absolute Perfection Vehicle Wrapping (Sykesville, MD), which prevailed last year with its van wrap for a Baltimore vaping shop.
However, Absolute Perfection represented itself well in the competition; the shop won the Specialty/Unique Wraps category with its “Mad Max-style” wrap for Havelin and Sons that features a visual patois of diamondplate, rivets and rusted-metal textures. Representing the heartland, Creative Color Studio (Burnsville, MN) excelled by garnering two first-place finishes: a victory in Transit Vehicles with its bus wrap for “Driven,” a hunting-focused reality show on the Outdoor Channel, and Baldy’s BBQ, which topped the Food Trucks category. Graphic D-Signs, a Washington, NJ-based wrap-design firm that partners with wrap fabricators and installers nationwide, brought an old-school flair with its Service Vehicle styles, which earned first and third place in that category, as well as an honorable mention.
For the fourth year, we’ve also included the Readers’ Choice gallery, which features 10 nominees that were gleaned from high scores in the judging’s opening round (so results differ somewhat from the judged contest), for which ST and Signweb.com readers can express their opinions on their favorites.
I hope you enjoy the Vehicle Graphics Contest gallery. It was a pleasure putting it together for you, as it has been since 2007.

Click here to go to the first contest category, Service Vehicles.

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